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Don't Assume That Person is Qualified to Handle Your Social Media

December 13, 2010
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There seems to be a common misconception in the business world that because "new media" involves technology, college-age people are automatically qualified to manage it. 

Don’t make this mistake! At the very least it could cost you wasted time and resources. Potentially, it could wreck your company’s hard-earned reputation.  

We recently worked with a financial institution that decided to pull their social media in-house. A little background: The marketing department was “bought into” the concept of two-way communication and the possibility of building their business via social media, but unfortunately it remained business as usual with the C-level management team. The CEO began tweeting but thought it was beneath him to actually respond to tweets.  

I was excited, however, that our efforts would not have been for nothing. Alas, I was wrong. The “kid” they hired was a really talented fellow, but was a newly minted college graduate with another job within the company. Social media was to be an add-on function he preferred to pay little attention to.  

How do you tell your contact that their employee’s avatar is shirtless, with tattoos, and he talks about girls on his personal Facebook page? Is this the person you want to represent your company? Their social media program has languished since he was put in charge. He’s probably not getting any more internal support than we did, but his lack of real-world experience is clearly not helping and could potentially be very damaging.

Well-respected writer and blogger Eric Deckers wrote an excellent blog on this topic.

As Deckers points out:

• The marketing intern does not oversee your entire marketing campaign, or even a new product launch.

• The corporate attorney defending your company in a civil suit didn’t finish law school three months ago.

• The new HR staffer is not responsible for implementing the new employee insurance program.

• And you certainly don’t let the vice president of finance’s daughter, fresh out of business school, make C-level decisions.

Deckers asks, “So why on earth would you let a 22-year-old college grad handle one of the most public-facing communication channels your corporation is going to have? Other than PR and traditional marketing, there is no other channel that reaches so many people so permanently as social media. And you want to give it to some rookie who can’t use the phrase ‘in my experience’ without cracking everyone else up?”

Deckers adds, “At least with corporate PR and marketing, your professionals have the benefit of years of experience and knowledge. But when you appoint a recent college grad to manage your social media, you’re handing the megaphone to someone with no real work experience or a sense of corporate responsibility, and letting them speak to the entire online community (and beyond) in real-time.”

Mastering the technology is just one part of the equation. The experience factor comes into play when it comes time to craft messages that support brand positioning and resonate with various consumer segments, integrating social media with other disciplines such as PR and advertising, and handling crisis situations where your company is getting hammered in online conversations.

Take a look at some of Jerimiah Owyang’s list of Social Media Failures if you need more convincing. Scary stuff!  

My objective here is not to scare you away from including social media in your marketing mix. Social media is fundamentally changing the way consumers share information and make decisions about what products and services they buy. Most companies need to be involved in social media; just do it right!

I am also not suggesting that all recent college graduates are ill-prepared to oversee social media marketing. There are certainly exceptions. As we all know by now, Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg while he attended college. But it is interesting to note that he has since hired people with decades of business experience to help him make critical decisions about marketing and so on. Mark is no dummy!
Christine Taylor is vice president of social media marketing for JTMarCom, a Nashville-based marketing agency that helps companies with online reputation management and integration of social media into their traditional marketing programs. With a combined 35 years of experience in the tire industry, the agency places a special emphasis on working with tire and automotive aftermarket companies. Follow Christine on Facebook and Twitter (@chrisgtaylor). She can also be reached at 615-714-5469.